Highlights from the Destinations International Annual Convention 2017

Director of Research and Online Marketing
Published 7/28/17
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Destinations International held its 103rd and, in some ways, first global convention in Montreal, Canada, July 11 -14, 2017

It was the 103rd annual convention of the organization, which is the world’s leading industry body representing DMOs including CVBs, state and regional tourism organizations and national tourism offices. The convention, however, is the first for the organization under its new name and branding: Destinations International (formerly Destination Marketing Association International or DMAI). 

As the official marketing agency of Destinations International, Miles Partnership worked closely with the organization on their new branding, which stemmed from a range of research, creative review and testing, and international benchmarking, followed by the refinement and implementation of the final brand. 

The convention was also only the third in the long history of Destinations International Conventions to move outside the U.S. – to the eclectic, innovative event capital of Canada: Montreal. Home to Cirque du Soleil, the convention and its entertainment showcased Montreal’s spectacular, quirky style and its tradition of pioneering innovative events. Richard St-Pierre, founder of the commerce + creativity event, C2, was the opening speaker.  

Miles had a major presence at the convention in the following areas: 

Global All-Stars Mainstage

For the last six years, Miles has organized a major session at the Destinations International Annual Convention – Global All Stars. This year, we showcased innovation in new technology, marketing and travel from three world class speakers. Amongst the key takeaways: 

Dylan Thuras of Atlas Obscura highlighted how to empower locals and visitors to uncover remarkable “hidden gems” — obscure experiences or locations that every destination possesses. Atlas Obscura has built a huge following showcasing the different, the forgotten and quirky from spots like the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada, to the centuries-old Root Bridges of Cherrapunji, India. Dylan recommended that destinations look for their own hidden gems by finding new ways to engage with and empower locals and visitors to share their favorite spots. 

Vanessa Sain-Dieguez, Head of HR Digital Strategy at Hilton (see below), spoke about the global hotel group’s journey to embrace both “high tech” and “high touch” with the extensive use of social media and artificial intelligence (AI) across their customer service. One example was the Hilton Suggests program, where hotel staff reaches out to travelers as well as guests across social media and offers travel tips and suggestions. Vanessa also highlighted that, with effective and committed staff training and support, complete technology novices can be turned into effective communicators using solutions such as social media. 

Google Senior Account Executive Varune Harnarine highlighted the dramatic pace of change in the online travel experience – and the central importance of both mobile and AI in serving visitors. Varune highlighted Google’s three core themes in developing improved travel content and features: Better Discovery, More Personalization and Universal Assistance. All three are integrated into their new Google Trips App and rely heavily on rapid progress in Machine Learning/AI to power their travel platform. Varune’s recommendation? Look for simple, easy and accessible ways to test, use and experiment with AI solutions in your marketing – for example, starting with ChatBots, as the impact of this technology is only just starting. He also noted the importance of looking at enriching the content available across Google’s platforms (which are powered by these technologies), as they will be of even greater importance, and highlighted Google’s new program for DMOs (see below). 

Global All-Stars Immersion Lab

The theme of innovation was continued at the Miles booth with the Global All-Stars Immersion Lab, allowing delegates to try the latest VR technology from Google (Daydream), Facebook (Spaces) and Atlas Obscura, plus the latest Google Street View camera technology.

 

Google DMO Global Partnership

Finally, Google announced a groundbreaking new partnership program for DMOs. At a workshop run in conjunction with Miles Partnership, Google outlined the ways in which DMOs can review and contribute content on their destinations across Google's platforms. Jen Schaefer, Content Strategy Lead for Google Travel and Sven Tresp, Program Manager for Google Street View, introduced this initiative along with Maggie Stanphill, Head of Content Strategy for Google. Miles is currently running a pilot with Google in three destinations — Branson, Missouri, and St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida. Leah Chandler, CMO of Branson/Lakes Area CVB, and Visit St. Pete/Clearwater CEO David Downing shared their experiences and early results. 

So far more than 90 DMOs have indicated their interest in learning more about the program. DMOs can sign up to stay in touch about the program from Miles and Google by using the simple online form available at: www.milespartnership.com/GoogleDMO